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Cheyney University pushes back against probation decision, plans to fight to preserve legacy

Cheyney University pushes back against probation decision, plans to fight to preserve legacy
Cheyney University pushes back against probation decision, plans to fight to preserve legacy 02:15

CHEYNEY, Pa. (CBS) -- Faculty, students and alumni gathered on Friday in Cheyney University's auditorium to celebrate its 187th Founders Day.

But on the day they honored and celebrated one of the oldest HBCUs in the country, there was a press conference down the hall where university officials pushed back on what they claim is an assault on the university's legacy.

"The theme for today's Founder's Day is resiliency," said Cheyney University President Aaron Walton.

Walton said Cheyney is fighting to save its reputation after an accrediting commission placed the university on probation.

He said it's a decision that threatens the school's future and federal funding.

"The greatest fear is reputational harm, the ability to recruit students, the confidence our benefactors[and] our alumni have in puts all of those things in question," Walton said.

This is the second time in nearly 10 years the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) placed Cheyney on probation.

The first time was in 2015 and it was due to questions about financial viability, according to university officials.

MSCHE declined to comment on the university's case.

However, documents found on the commission's website said it was because the university was out of compliance and fell short on required standards.

MSCHE said it fell short on standards, covering ethics and integrity, institutional improvement and design and delivery of the student learning experience.

Walton said the university has made improvements, all of which were acknowledged on visits by reps from MSCHE. On those visits, the university said the reps determined Cheyney was in compliance and only offered recommendations.

University officials said the decision to put them on probation is unprecedented, especially since the university was never given a warning.

"All we want is for the rules of Cheyney University to be like any other college or university that is evaluated throughout this country," said Ryan Boyer, who is the Chairman of the Council of Trustees.

Students said they were shocked to learn about the probation decision.

"We feel it's unwarranted. We feel it not needed," said senior Kishore Owusu.

State leaders, including Gov. Josh Shapiro, are expressing support for Cheyney.

Shapiro wrote a letter to the commission urging them to reverse the decision.

Walton also said the university is calling for an urgent meeting between the university and the Department of Education to discuss a plan for the university to get out of a probationary status.

He's hoping this matter will be resolved quickly but says the university will fight to preserve its nearly 200-year-old legacy. 

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